The States With the Worst Drivers

New York and New Jersey are at the bottom: Take the test yourself.

May 31, 2010, 2:26 PM

June 1, 2010— -- Worried about getting hit by some careless driver who doesn't know the rules of the road? Well then you might want to steer clear of New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and California.

Those four areas top this year's list of the states with the worst drivers, according to a survey performed by GMAC Insurance.

"It's discouraging to see that overall average test scores are lower than last year," said Wade Bontrager, a senior vice president for GMAC Insurance, which ranked drivers.

GMAC for the past six years has surveyed roughly 5,000 people across the country with 20 test questions taken from various state driving tests. It turns out than many Americans don't really know what it means when there is a solid yellow line on one side of the center line or what type of lights to use when driving in the fog. (No passing and use your low beams.)

Click Here to Take the Test Yourself

If the numbers from the GMAC survey held true for the entire U.S. population, it would mean that one in five licensed drivers -- roughly 38 million Americans -- would not pass a written drivers exam if taken today.

The overall scores fell from 76.6 percent last year to 76.2 percent this year. Eighty-five percent could not identify the correct action to take when approaching a steady yellow traffic light (stop if it is safe to do so) and many remained confused by safe following distances (3 seconds.)

And in case you were wondering, the best drivers in the country are in Kansas, Oregon, South Dakota and Minnesota.

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The goal of the annual test -- besides some free publicity for GMAC -- is to help educate drivers. Bontrager said people need to remember the rules of the road and that educated drivers are safer drivers.

"American drivers need to make safety a top priority and be aware of the rules of the road at all times," he said. "The National Drivers Test allows everyone to brush up on their driving knowledge with a brief refresher course."

As an insurance company, GMAC sees the results every day of what happens when people don't know the rules of the road, Bontrager added.

Overall, the Northeast had the lowest average test scores at 74.9 percent, and the highest failure rate at 25.1 percent. The Midwest had the highest average test scores at 77.5 percent and the lowest failure rates at 11.9 percent. (Test-takers need to score at least 70 percent on the test to pass.)

So why are some regions better drivers than others?

Bontrager said it might because people that drive in very congested areas lose sight of the rules of the road. But that's just speculation.

Another theory: people in states with large metropolitan areas tend to take public transit more often and lose some of their driving skills.

"We certainly wouldn't suggest that people avoid any place [because of the test]. You ought to be a defensive driver no matter where you are, follow the rules of the road and understand that not everybody out there knows them as well as you do," Bontrager told ABC News when last year's test results came out. "Whether I'm driving in New York or Des Moines, I want to be a defensive driver. Maybe I can breathe a little easier in Des Moines or Idaho than I can in a congested area. But it doesn't change how you should drive."

The Driving Test

The most frequently missed question, year after year, is the proper safe distance to follow another car on the road.

Of course for many people these questions are tough because it's been decades since they took a driving test. But that's not necessarily the reason for the knowledge gap.

Generally speaking, the older the driver, the higher the score. Males over 45 earned the highest average test score. Males also out-performed females overall in terms of average score (78.1 percent male versus 74.4 percent female) and failure rates (24 percent female versus 18.1 percent male).

"Older drivers typically do better. Apparently there's something to age and experience that makes people more familiar with the general rules of the road. Or maybe they all just studied better back then," Bontrager said.

Additional questions from the survey reveal drivers conduct a variety of distracting behaviors behind the wheel; approximately one in four participants admitted to driving while talking on a cell phone, eating and adjusting the radio or selecting songs on an iPod. However, only 5 percent reported they text while driving.

Overall, a significantly higher percentage of females than males reported engaging in the following distracting situations: conversation with passengers, selecting songs on an iPod or CD/adjusting the radio, talking on a cell phone, eating, applying make-up and reading.

The States With the Best Drivers

So where does your state rank? Below is a list of how each state fared from worst to best and their rank from last year. There was a lot of movement from the last test, so study up New Yorkers, there's always next year.

51: New York (51)

50: New Jersey (50)

49: Washington, D.C. (44)

48: California (48)

47: Rhode Island (46)

46: Louisiana (37)

45: West Virginia (28)

44: Hawaii (49)

43: New Hampshire (33)

42: Kentucky (35)

41: Florida (43)

40: Mississippi (39)

39: Pennsylvania (36)

38: Massachusetts (45)

37: North Carolina (20)

36: Arkansas (24)

35: Texas (25)

34: Connecticut (42)

33: Illinois (29)

32: Georgia (47)

31: Alabama (26)

30: South Carolina (40)

29: New Mexico (19)

28: Virginia (21)

27: Ohio (34)

26: Maine (31)

25: Delaware (32)

24: Colorado (15)

23: Utah (7)

22: Vermont (22)

21: Nevada (27)

20: Maryland (41)

19: Tennessee (38)

18: Wyoming (8)

17: Arizona (30)

16: Missouri (16)

15: Michigan (23)

14: North Dakota (13)

13: Oklahoma (17)

12: Wisconsin (2)

11: Washington (18)

10: Alaska (12)

9: Montana (3)

8: Idaho (1)

7: Indiana (22)

6: Nebraska (6)

5: Iowa (9)

4: Minnesota (11)

3: South Dakota (5)

2: Oregon (10)

1: Kansas (4)

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